A Green Party councillor has criticised Cambridge rowers of killing ducklings whilst rowing on the River Cam.
Cllr Oscar Gillespie tweeted this week: “The tragic side of rowing on the Cam. Newborn ducklings don't know how to get out of the way of competitive rowers.”
His message included a photo of a dead duckling floating on the water.
The City Councillor spoke to the News, saying: “Everyone else seems to be able to share the river amicably. The house boats and punters don't have any problems avoiding the local wildlife.
When the clubs are on though, everyone seems to have to get out of their way, including animals, so I wish it was better managed so everyone can use the river".
Mr. Gillespie also added that hes “heard from friends every year for a number of years now”about the duckling deaths.
When asked about what his reaction was to seeing these reports and pictures, he said: “It makes me feel pretty sad and despondent.
"It seems like mankind wants to be dominant, and theres no place for the animals anymore. We need to learn to share the river with everyone.”
While Mr. Gillespie admits he has never seen a duckling killed in person, he added: “I find the reports that birds are being killed by rowers totally believable”
Rowers hit back
Bill Kay, President of the Cambridgeshire Rowing association, hit back at the criticism from Cllr Gillespie, saying: “ This is a subject that has been discussed regularly at various meetings in particularly the River Group Forum which comprises representatives of river users including animal activists.
"All rowers are particularly asked to keep clear of wildlife on the river wherever possible.
"We have also had discussions with local wildlife groups and The Queen's Swan Marker who visited Cambridge to attend a special meeting with local organisers.”
The Conservators for the River Cam have said: “It is a crime for people to harm wild animals, if witnessed we encourage the public to either contact the RSPCA, RSPB or Cambridgeshire Constabulary.
Cambridgeshire Constabulary have also said that they have no reports of ducklings being killed in 2018.
The Rowers Association has also said: “It should be understood that there are 3,000 rowers who use the River Cam and often at racing speed and comparing them with house boats and punters is fatuous”.
"It should also be recognised that there are a number of river users who purposely encourage swans on to the bumps rowing course by feeding them between divisions. This is well documented.”
However, the News has also uncovered further pictures of dead ducklings floating on the water with “a broken neck” on May 1, with one resident saying a duckling was buried near Stourbridge Common.
A Rowers Association spokesperson told the News they will “remind local clubs of the concerns that have recently been brought to my attention.”
Is rowing hazardous to animals?
This is not the first time there has been allegations of rowers causing harm to wildlife on the River Cam.
Six ducklings and their mum had a close shave when a boat loaded as rowers made their way to the starting line during The May Bumps on the river next to The Plough Pub in Fen Ditton.
The year prior, police were called after Cambridge University students killed five ducklings and a cygnet during their college races – just a day after decapitating another duckling.
Starting in the 1820s, the object of “The Bumps” is to catch up and bump into the crew in front, without being caught from behind.
However, with over 100 boats taking to the water, it can get quite choppy on the river.
During 2015s event, rower Katie Matthews, who rowed for town club Cambridge '99, said she saw two ducklings drown after being hit by two training teams from Cambridge colleges.
Speaking to The Mirror ,she said at the time: "I row with Nines and if we see birds with young on the water we slow down to avoid them. That does not seem to be the case with college clubs.
"I have just come back from walking my dogs along the Cam, and two training teams have rowed through a duck and four of its ducklings.
"Two of the ducklings are now dead, after drowning in the middle of the river. I shouted at both boats to avoid them. Neither slowed down or changed course at all.
"Their accompanying cycle teams saw the ducks, and shouted no warning either. This is absolutely disgusting behaviour."
That being said, President Kay says: "I have been rowing on the Cam since 1960 and have never been involved with a collision involving wild life. If our cox sees a group of swans ahead she will always take avoiding action and this involves stopping then she will."